International partnership creates new educational programs in gastronomy

Ana's headshot

Ana Ishkhanova, a 28-year-old from Tbilisi, has always had great interest in the culinary arts, but ended up studying math as a college student. After her first year, she realized she should pursue something that made her happy, and that was cooking. For that reason, she left her university and enrolled at the Georgian Culinary Academy.

Ana Ishkhaova, newly trained chef, is just one of the 35 individuals that have benefited from USAID-supported skills training programs to address the needs of the growing gastronomy industry in Georgia.

Soon after, she learned about the joint training program offered by the Caucasus University (CU) and the Basque Culinary Center, supported by the USAID Industry-led Skills Development Program and implemented by IESC. She embraced the opportunity to embark on a new career path. “I made tremendous professional growth, met very interesting people, became more self-confident, and, most importantly, got even more excited about becoming a chef and dramatically changing my lifestyle,” says Ana.

To meet the needs of the gastronomy industry, in 2022 IESC partnered with Caucasus University, one of the leading educational institutions in Georgia, with 10 schools/faculties running 45 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. Together with the Basque Culinary Center of San Sebastian, Spain, and the Gastronomic Tourism Business Association of Georgia, the Caucasus University created an innovative skills development certificate training program which became the first vocational training program in gastronomy in Georgia designed in collaboration with international partners. The CU training program aims to upskill students in avantgarde culinary techniques, creativity, plating, and gastronomic trends. In total, 35 students took the training course delivered by four trainers who had been trained during the first cycle of trainings-of-trainers organized by the Basque Culinary Center.

“Once all your friends learn about your culinary talents, you become the most popular person in your circle. Everyone wants to come for dinner. And you’re glad—you can try new flavors and experiment regularly. But while cooking for friends is rewarding, your ambitions don’t stop there. You want to become a chef and belong in a restaurant,” says Ana, who is now using her skills as a chef at, a restaurant in Tbilisi.

Following the success of IESC’s gastronomy training program, Caucasus University plans to expand its engagement in skills development and establish an Academy of Gastronomy in Gurjaani (in Georgia’s Kakheti region) as a collaborative initiative between the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, Caucasus University, and the Basque Culinary Center, further supporting young Georgians to upskill while meeting the workforce needs of Georgia’s growing gastronomy sector.

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